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Friday, November 15, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Centennial Trail's First Leg Will Be Opened Tomorrow -- Seven-Mile Route Goes North From Snohomish

Trail opening

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the first leg of the Centennial Trail will begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the trail head in Machias, a grassy park along Virginia Street, just west of the Machias Community Church. A six-mile health walk will begin at noon, sponsored by the Snohomish County Advocates for the Mentally Ill. On a first-come, first-served basis, 74 bicycle helmets will be given away, beginning at 10 a.m., to children 5 to 12 who are present with a bicycle and accompanied by an adult.

SNOHOMISH - A citizens group that for years has lobbied for a walking trail will finally see the fruits of its labor tomorrow with the opening of the first leg of the 17-mile Centennial Trail, which will eventually link up with neighboring counties.

Ultimately, it's hoped the trail system will connect with others to Canada, Oregon and Eastern Washington.

In Snohomish County, the seven-mile leg of the Centennial Trail is the first officially designated, non-motorized trail in the county - "hopefully the first of many," said Mike Parman, county Parks Department trail coordinator.

A decade ago, Snohomish County residents listed development of a trail system as the top recreation priority. Though the county adopted a master plan for trails 15 years ago, none were built. "The Centennial Trail will be the backbone of the whole system," Parman said.

When Burlington Northern announced its intention to sell

right-of-way property along the trail route, a citizens group was formed to lobby the county and state to acquire the land. A national trail organization made public purchase of the property its top priority in thestate.

The effort was successful, giving birth to the Centennial Trail between Arlington and Snohomish. That will be only part of the county's system.

The county now is negotiating to buy an eight-mile link of the Burlington Northern rights from Arlington to the Skagit County line. Skagit County is negotiating with the railroad to continue the project northward.

To the north, Parman says an uninterrupted trail system eventually will go to Sumas, Skagit County, just south of the Canadian border. When the 44-mile system in Snohomish County is built, it will provide a link via Monroe to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail in King County, allowing hikers to connect to the Burke-Gilman Trail or go east across the Cascade Mountains along the Iron Horse and John Wayne trails.

Half of the $4.2 million cost of the 17-mile section has come from state grants.

The seven miles completed between Snohomish and Hartford at Lake Stevens cost $1.4 million. The entire 44-mile system carries an estimated cost of about $12.5 million.

The reason this section is opening now is because the county was able to make a quick "buy" of the property, Parman said.

"We plan to move quickly on the rest of the trail," north to Arlington, he said.

On the section completed, a 12-foot-wide asphalt path is for pedestrians and bicycles. An equestrian trail is graveled and six feet wide. On this leg, five bridges had to be replaced.

For the next section, the county does not plan to lay asphalt immediately. Instead, Parman said, after replacing two bridges, the trail will be leveled, with gravel topping to allow it to open next year. The expensive asphalt treatment will be done later.

The opening day will also give the county a chance to show off the protection it plans for the trail. There will be four bicycle-patrol officers, two park rangers and two members of the sheriff's reserve. Parman is discussing with sheriff's officials the availability of deputies in the future.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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